NEED’s ‘Fill-A-Room’ event helps outfit incoming freshmen

NEED President and CEO Dr. Marcia Sturdivant places supplies for incoming freshmen to choose from, at NEED’s first “Fill-A-Room” fundraiser, July 18, Downtown. (Photos by J.L. Martello)

Soon-to-be freshman Dymon Booker knows she wants to study business and entrepreneurship, and knows she’ll be studying at Norfolk State University. But what she didn’t know as she stood in the Negro Emergency Education Drive conference room last week, was how many towels she’d need—she took two, and a comforter, some sheets, and some toiletries—much like the other 30 or so first-year college students who welcomed the chance to do so that NEED provided.
Booker, who was the cheerleading captain at Allderdice her senior year, said an internship she’d obtained through NEED to work at KnotzLand actually spurred her interest in studying business. Now, she has something else to thank the organization for.
“This is fantastic, I really appreciate this,” said Booker. “I just got back from a campus tour and I head back Aug.11 for orientation. I turned down a full-ride scholarship at another college because I wanted to get away. But I’m not turning this down. It’s very generous, very helpful.”
A lot of our students felt the same way. In fact, NEED President and CEO Marcia Sturdivant said the initial turnout took her a bit by surprise.
“This is the first year we’ve done this, so we said the hours would be 12 to 5 p.m. When I got here at 11 a.m., they were lined up in the hallway,” she said. “And, of course, I was the first one here, but we made it work.”
And work it did, as fans, duffle bags, notebooks, clocks, dinnerware, laundry baskets, cleaning supplies, quilts, and books on surviving and prospering as a college student flew out the door.
The giveaways were the culmination of what NEED called its Fill-A-Room Fundraiser, which began soliciting donations in May—and individuals from across the city responded. As Sturdivant put it, for decades NEED has been helping Black students get to college—this is about helping them once they’re there.

“A lot of these families put everything into tuition, books, clothes, and can’t afford extras, and outfitting a dorm can be expensive,” she said. “We don’t want our students to feel like they don’t fit in. That first few weeks can shape their whole experience. We want to take some of the stress away, so they start off in a positive way.”
Brionda Jemison is very positive about her future, and very thankful for NEED’s generosity. She’ll be studying game design at Edinboro University.
“My grandmother actually told me about it, and I’m glad she did,” she said. “I got some bedding, towels, a laundry basket. It’s a great start.”
Tyler Williams said he is still undecided on what he’ll major in at Mercyhurst University, but said he plans to continue playing basketball, as he did at Allderdice. He is not, however, undecided about NEED.
“This is great,” he said. “It’s my first time having any experience with NEED and its really great to see all that they are doing. I really appreciate this.”
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